Our article this month focuses on the English component of the 11+ exam. The English section rigorously tests your child’s literacy skills and word knowledge through comprehension, vocabulary, punctuation, spelling and grammar exercises. These exercises can prove challenging as they incorporate wide-ranging vocabulary, including words with multiple meanings, spellings and pronunciations; whilst also testing students’ ability to interpret the underlying context and meaning of a text. For example, cloze procedure requires pupils to use the context of a sentence or passage to identify missing letters or words. Similarly, an exercise where students must unscramble jumbled sentences tests their reading fluency and perception of context, as well as their word knowledge.

At this stage, it is important to ensure your child brushes up on their spelling, grammar and punctuation skills. They could be tested on any area of the Year 5 English curriculum so make sure they are up to speed with the more advanced punctuation such as semi-colons, speech marks and brackets.  When they do a piece of writing, check through their grammar, spelling and punctuation with them.  Set them some proof-reading challenges: write out sentences or passages containing errors and see if they can spot them.  If this is not your child’s strong point, there are many workbooks and revision guides on the market that will help them to build up their knowledge and it is better to start on this sooner rather than later.  Short bursts of targeted practice are always more effective than sporadic longer chunks of time.

Encourage your child to expand their vocabulary and build up their comprehension skills as much as possible over the coming months.  Helping your child with this type of learning and revision can feel like a never-ending task; however many words they learn, you may still worry that one they do not recognise will appear on the day! Therefore, a recommended approach to targeted vocabulary work is to build connections in your child’s mind between related words. Practise learning synonyms and antonyms as well as identifying the meaning of common prefixes, suffixes and root words. These connections will help your child to make educated guesses as to meaning when they encounter a word they do not know. Help your child to compile a glossary of words that they struggle to spell or define and practise them frequently – recalling knowledge prompts the brain to move the information into long-term storage. Making up rhymes and mnemonics can be especially helpful in getting spellings to stick.

Most important of all is to read together. Learning vocabulary in context is much more interesting than memorising dry lists of words, whilst sharing a story gives you the opportunity to discuss it together. Test your child’s understanding of the text through questions and stretch their comprehension skills by encouraging them to retell the story, predict what will happen next and empathise with the characters’ situations and responses. Enjoying a range of genres and authors together will help your child to feel comfortable working with a variety of text types and writing styles – make sure to include the classics. Visit www.lovereading4kids.co.uk for recommendations for age-appropriate books that your child will not want to put down!

As with all 11+ preparation, it is important to keep things fun so that your child does not burn out or feel overwhelmed. Playing vocabulary-based board games as a family, such as Scrabble, Articulate and Apples to Apples, is a great way to practise new spellings and meanings. There are also plenty of online games available – try www.freerice.com which rewards children for practising vocabulary by donating food to the hungry on their behalf.

Of course, it is vital that your child also completes timed exercises and practice tests like those they will sit on the day. Be careful to introduce these gradually to avoid panic; a sense of a rapidly ticking clock may cause your child to rush through exercises and lose marks by only reading texts and questions superficially. Techniques such as skimming and scanning for key words and identifying the topic each paragraph in a text focuses on will help your child to increase their speed at comprehension exercises whilst maintaining accuracy.

Flying Start can support your child’s English preparation in a variety of ways. Our holiday Booster courses are ideal for children who would benefit from some extra help to improve their English skills, whilst our Mock Test Experience days give your child the chance to familiarise themselves with questions of a similar style to the Bucks GL Assessment 11+ test. The day includes a feedback session in the afternoon, during which pupils review their exam papers in small groups with our knowledgeable and friendly team. To give your child some realistic mock test practice at home, you can purchase a set of our popular Mocks in a Box here.

For more information, contact Flying Start Tuition on 01494 772 898, email hello@flyingstarttuition.co.uk or visit:  www.flyingstarttuition.co.uk